BRIT-THINK:Selfish people (those who raise a finger or two to ‘we-think’) get the jump on others. These include:
1. Those who have made lots of money in property or trade (but not those who have inherited it). To take an active role – to strive – is to invite censure. Passive good fortune gets you off the hook, since it’s not your fault you’re loaded.
2. Manual workers on strike for more pay, who turn out – infuriatingly – to have real bargaining leverage. This is called ‘holding the public to ransom’. The popular Brit-press assumes the role of ‘the striker’s conscience’. Power – workers are exhorted to ‘consider the elderly’ before turning off the juice. Railway workers are cautioned that action will ‘only hurt the commuter’... or nurses and teachers that ‘patients and children will suffer’. It is hoped that this will remind them of ‘we-think’, and make them ashamed to exploit an obvious industrial advantage.
Ordinary Brit-citizens are automatically expected to place ‘vocation’ or a sense of ‘duty to the wider community’ before personal concerns like the right amount of hard cash. This applies to nurses, power, water and railway workers, miners and teachers... but not to doctors, Cabinet Ministers, top Civil Servants, or Captains of Industry. Logic also inverts in the case of the Queen, who is perceived as the embodiment of ‘we-think’ – a woman who regards duty as the highest privilege – despite a personal fortune worth billions of pounds. According to classic Britthink, she is seen as self-sacrificing, socially virtuous, and rich.
AMERI-THINK: More ‘me-think’. No expectation of high social ideals from Joe Average. No concept of ‘Pleb-Oblige’. Make no mistake: Americans are charmed by altruism when they find it; but it is not regarded as compulsory for the lower social orders.
Yanks are the world’s biggest sceptics when it comes to human motivation, since they take it for granted that – with the exceptions of Mother Teresa and Bob Geldof – others are busy looking after Number One. There are only two certainties in life, and both should be borne firmly in mind:
1. everybody likes ice cream;
2. every man / woman has his/her price.
Undiluted ‘me-think’ irritates Brits, who fear:
1. that Yanks perceive only the basest motives, and
2. that they’re probably right.
One last cultural point: Yanks loathe sharing, which is incompatible with ‘me-think’. They specially hate the British practice of sharing restaurant tables with complete strangers. No American hotels – even the oldest ones – were built with shared bathrooms. Shops have no communal fitting-rooms. Only dire financial constraint will induce anyone to accept a party telephone line. There is only one thing a Yank will share with any equanimity. His dessert.